Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a condition that affects a man’s ability to get and sustain an erection that leads to positive sexual experiences.

It does not cause any physical health problems as such. However, it can cause problems in relationships causing unhappiness in sex life and delay in partner’s conception.

ED is a common problem amongst men who have diabetes affecting 35-75% of the male diabetics. Up to 75% of men suffering from diabetes experiences some degree of erectile dysfunction over the course of their life time. As human sexual response involves different body systems (nervous, vascular) it is common to find a person with long-term diabetes experiencing sexual difficulties.

Erectile Dysfunction can stem from problems caused by poor long-term blood sugar control as this damages nerves and blood vessels.

What causes ED?

ED is mostly caused due to hormonal deficiency or problems, nerve-related problems or a block in blood supply to the sexual organ.

How does diabetes cause ED?

One of the most common complications of diabetes is neuropathy or nerve damage. Erection is a function of the parasympathetic nervous system. Orgasm and ejaculation are controlled by the sympathetic system. Nerve damages to either of these two nervous systems can cause ED.

The causes of erectile dysfunction in men with diabetes are complex and involve impairments in nerve, blood vessel, and muscle function.

Diabetes contributes to erectile problems majorly in two ways

  • Impair the nerves that instruct the arteries of the penis to dilate
  • Restrict blood flow to penis by damaging the blood vessels

The poorly controlled blood sugar levels associated with diabetes can damage small blood vessels and nerves. Damage to the nerves that control sexual stimulation and response can impede a man’s ability to achieve an erection firm enough to have sexual intercourse. And reduced blood flow from damaged blood vessels also contributes to erectile dysfunction.

In short, diabetes can damage the blood vessels and nerves that control erection. Therefore, even if a man has normal amounts of male hormones and a strong desire to have sex, he may still not be able to achieve a firm erection.

How ED is diagnosed?

Erectile is diagnosed using several different methods. Patient history often informs the degree and nature of the ED. Medical and sexual past often has an influence, as also prescription or illegal drug use.

Physical examination is conducted by the doctor. Certain bodily features can give clues to the cause of ED. Laboratory tests can confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment for ED

The good news is that ED is one of the most treatable complications of diabetes. Discuss with your doctor the problem and don’t let embarrassment hamper your chance to have a healthy sex life. Careful blood sugar control can help prevent the vascular and neurological complications that contribute to sexual problems.

There are different oral medications that can be taken for ED. However, because people with diabetes also tend to have heart related problems at times, you must check with the doctor to ensure that the medications you taken don’t have any interference with the heart medicine.